Thursday 2 June 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Thursday. 2/6/2022

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Christopher Cermak

Going the distance

While war rages in Ukraine, with both sides bringing all conventional weapons to bear, the delicate dance between the West and Russia over military supplies continues. On the one hand, Western nations have supplied more weapons to Ukraine than to any previous conflict zone – Germany for the first time in its postwar history. On the other, they continue to play a game of poker with Russia that has descended into increasingly bizarre definitions of what exactly constitutes “direct support”.

The latest example this week is Joe Biden’s pledge of a “medium-range” advanced rocket system, rather than the long-range variety, for Ukraine. The assumption is that US-made rockets with a range of about 70km are just about tolerable, while sending those with a 290km range would be seen as encouraging Ukraine to attack Russian soil.

Image: Alamy

Leaving aside the fact that Ukraine has no intention of attacking Russia, I struggle to understand the distinction when I take a cursory look at the map of Ukraine’s border: Kharkiv is less than 40km from the border and could theoretically be used as a launching pad for attacks on Russia. By contrast, 290km still doesn’t get you anywhere near Russia’s nearest major city of Volgograd (about 480km from the border).

Drawing such arbitrary distinctions seems to play into Moscow’s hands. Even the pledge of medium-range rockets prompted Russian state media to broadcast reports of a fresh round of exercises by the country’s strategic “nuclear deterrence” forces. I understand the fears of a direct confrontation between the US and Russia, something that Biden once again stressed that he was keen to avoid. But surely drawing clear, firm lines in the sand are more likely to avoid such confrontation than repeatedly and incrementally calling Putin’s bluff.

Image: Getty Images

Society / UK

Royal standards

Millions of people across the UK are hanging out bunting, putting on their party hats and cracking open the bubbly to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s 70 years on the throne. But the Platinum Jubilee bash, which includes a four-day holiday for most Brits, comes at a tumultuous time in the nation’s politics. The prime minister, Boris Johnson, reported to be facing a vote of no confidence over his lockdown excesses. The Queen’s seven-decade reign has, in marked contrast to Johnson’s two-and-a-half-year tenure in Downing Street, been characterised by stoicism, commitment and a sense of duty and responsibility: remember that the monarch observed pandemic restrictions by sitting alone at her husband’s funeral in Windsor, while Johnson and his team violated their own rules by partying in the corridors of power. You don’t have to be a staunch monarchist to enjoy the Jubilee weekend – but perhaps be thankful that the UK doesn’t have a presidential system.

Image: Shutterstock

Geopolitics / Estonia

Show of support

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted former Soviet states such as Estonia to snap into action. Since Moscow launched its war in late February, more than 1,000 women have signed up for Estonia’s voluntary defence organisation, Naiskodukaitse (pictured), which normally recruits about 200 a year. And the country’s government is giving 0.81 per cent of its GDP in aid to Ukraine. That’s a larger share than other countries that experienced Soviet rule, such as Latvia and Poland, are pledging.

Estonia has also welcomed more than 40,000 refugees, a figure that equates to 3 per cent of its population. “For Estonia, this is about existential importance,” says Kadri Liik, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. Due to the country’s complicated history of occupation by Nazi Germany and then Soviet Russia, “Most families have experiences of having to leave their homes,” says Liik. “That’s why so many are donating money.” We can only hope that countries without such a heritage also remain steadfast in supporting Kyiv.

Image: Getty Images

Urbanism / Paris

Back on track

Like many European cities, Paris is home to a network of unused and abandoned railway lines. One of these is the Petite Ceinture, a small railroad that circles the city and was used to carry cargo until the big industries moved out of the French capital. Now a new project by L’Association des Promeneurs de la Petite Ceinture (Walkers of the Petite Ceinture) plans to turn the disused tracks into walking routes with bars, cafés and cultural activities. “It’s about creating a new green area for the city and a new way for people to rediscover Paris,” says Antoine Sander, the president of the association. Parts are already open to the public and Sander says that the goal is to connect these 32km of railway in a manner that preserves their original use. “The idea is that these interventions don’t disturb the tracks, so that if one day the railway operator wants to reopen the line, the infrastructure is there to be used,” he says.

Tune in to the latest edition of ‘The Monocle Daily’ for our full interview with Antoine Sander and join Monocle’s team at our Quality of Life Conference in Paris this week for more urban innovations across the French capital.

Image: Kohei Take

Travel / Japan

Resuming service

Bars and cafés in Tokyo are slowly starting to see an influx of international visitors. Yesterday, Japan further relaxed its border restrictions by allowing people from 98 countries to enter without airport testing and quarantine at arrival. Many have been waiting eagerly to visit Japan, which was ranked as the top travel destination in a new tourism development report by the World Economic Forum (listen to Monday’s edition of The Globalist for more).

From 10 June, Japan will once again start accepting guided tours from nations categorised as low risk, including the UK, US and Australia. With people on business visas already able to visit Japan, the hospitality industry is feeling more vibrant and gearing up for a busier summer. The next step would be to further lift the cap on daily arrivals – currently at 20,000 – so that the country’s national carriers can more reliably resume their international routes.

Image: Gunnlöð Jóna

Monocle 24 / The Menu

Recipe edition: Solla Eiríksdóttir

One of Iceland’s best-known chefs and cookery book authors shares a favourite dessert recipe.

Monocle Films / Global

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